How Humans Might Save Antibiotics
Last month, a massive group of business leaders and health officials gathered for one of the biggest events in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Almost 350 parties showed up to pledge support for the AMR Challenge, a program whose goal is to make countries and corporations get serious about a major threat facing humanity: the gradual but catastrophic loss of drugs that can treat life-threatening infections, which leads to an estimated 700,000 deaths each year.
By the standards of the public policy world, the New York event was an enormous success. Those executives and officials didn’t just state their support, they made surprisingly detailed commitments. And the boldest moves came from a perhaps unlikely source: the business world. Dozens of hospital networks, both giant and small, pledged to reduce the prescriptions they write in-house, to keep from encouraging resistance. Huge retailers committed to tracking animal antibiotic use; Walmart, for instance, agreed to set guidelines for the suppliers that funnel meat to its more than 5,000 stores. Pharmaceutical manufacturers including Merck, one of the few US-based companies still making antibiotics, laid out a plan to invest more in basic research on new compounds. Fifty-five pharma and biotech companies promised to develop better rapid tests, which prevent unnecessary prescriptions, including Accelerate Diagnostics, based in Arizona, which committed a $100 million program. Two manufacturers of veterinary vaccines announced they would educate veterinarians on alternatives to using antibiotics in farm animal.